Ruth Hanna McCormick was a suffragist and advocate for the rights of women and children. She actively campaigned for the vote for women from 1913 until the amendment was ratifed by the states in 1920. In 1913, Illinois women won the right to vote in municipal elections and for presidential electors and on bond issues. But oddly enough they did not win the right to vote for Congress, Governor, other statewide offices, or members of the General Assembly, until the 19th Amendment was ratified by three-quarters of the states in 1920. Illinois was one of the first three states to ratify the national vote for women amendment on June 10, 1919 and tied with the legisaltures of Michigan and Wisconsin on that day.
Ruth was not the the first woman to serve in Congress from Illinois. Winifred Mason-Huck was elected in a special 1923 election to succeed her father Rep. William Mason but Winifred only served a few months and did not win renomination in 1924. Ruth not only served a full term in the House but she was also the first woman of either party to win a statewide election in Illinois when she became an at-large Member of Congress as a Republican in 1928. She campaigned in 99 of the 102 Illinois counties. There have been women representatives in Congress from Illinois in every decade since the 1920s.
The women pioneers from Illinois in the legislature included Lottie Holman O'Neill of Downers Grove who was first elected to the House in 1922. Florence Fifer Bohrer of Bloomington was the daughter of Gov. Joe Fifer and was the first woman elected to the state senate in 1924. But Lottie served longer than any other woman in a state legislature, 1923 to 1951 in the House with two years off and 1951 to 1963 in the Senate for a total of 38 years in legislative service. Lottie, Florence, Winifred, and Ruth were all Republicans.
Ruth Hanna McCormick came from two politically-powerful families and was owner and publisher of the Rockford Register-Republic and the Rockford Morning Star starting in 1930 during a time when she lived in Byron, Illinois in Ogle County.
Ruth Hanna was born on March 27, 1880 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the daughter of the national Republican power broker Sen. Mark Hanna. In 1903, she married Medill McCormick, a grandson of Joseph Medill. Medill McCormick, like his grandfather, was editor and publisher of the Chicago Daily Tribune from about 1900 to 1908. Her husband was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1912 as a Bull Moose (Progressive) and he was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and a national Vice President of the Progressive Party from 1912 to 1914. After just one term in the U.S. House from 1917 to 1919, he ran as the Republican candidate for US Senator and defeated Sen. James Hamilton Lewis in 1918.
In 1924, U.S. Sen. Medill McCormick was defeated in the Republican primary election by former Gov. Charles Deneen who was an ally of Mayor Big Bill Thompson. In February 1925, Ruth's husband Medill was only 48 years old in the final week of his Senate term. Medill was depressed over leaving the Senate when he took his own life in a Washington hotel as the session of the Senate was in its final days.
After only two years of service in the House during the first two years of the Hoover Administration, Ruth had her revenge for her husband's 1924 defeat at the hands of Deneen when Ruth herself defeated Sen. Deneen for the Senate nomination in the Republican primary in 1930.
But her revenge was short-lived. The ultimate irony was that former Democratic Sen. James Hamilton Lewis, who had been defeated by Medill McCormick in 1918, made a comeback 12 years after his loss when he defeated Medill's widow, Congressman Ruth Hanna McCormick, in the general election in the fall. November 1930 was a bad election day for Republicans following the stock market crash by one year.
The one thing that Ruth could later salvage from her brief time in Congress was that she met Congressman Albert Gallatin Simms of New Mexico whom she later married. Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms lived in New Mexico with her new husband in her final years and was active in New Mexico GOP political circles. She died in New Mexico on Dec. 31, 1944 at the age of 64 and is buried in Albuquerque.